Our palate took us to a new experience - a local distillery.
This was a birthday surprise present. A visit to distillery is an exciting way to spend your Saturday morning. Granted you can convince the owner of a small shop take time away from his personal weekend activities to entertain a couple with a private tour of his “holy temple”. Ma Cherie claimed he was very accommodating with our tight schedule.
The distillery is tucked away in an unassuming industrial complex corner in Vaughan. You walk straight into a small reception area with bottles along the wall available for sale. There is already a fair choice of products to pick from, even through Still Waters has been in business for only a few years. The production hall is reminiscent of a small assembly factory with machinery scattered around. That is until you see the stacks of barrels along the walls marked with dates.
Barry Stein, the co-owner of Still Water Distillery, spent a good hour walking us through each and every step of the process not only for whisky, but for gin and vodka making as well. Our interest in whisky kind of morphed from an earlier excitement about wine (which we still cherish). I am particularly interested in Scotch – this full bodied, tongue biting, taste buds exciting amber-coloured spirit made from very simple ingredients. It turns out Still Water aims to create a scotch-style whisky far from its homeland. Barry was very tactful and assumed we did not know much about the art of whisky making (a safe bet). We know a bit, but it was interesting to listen from the very start.
Still Waters gets their malted barley wholesale without additional enzymes thus guaranteeing a more authentic process. Their copper pot is smaller than average and each step of the distillation is very closely supervised. The tour can be as detailed as you want it to be. We had time on our hands and some knowledge, so our focus was on the finer parts of the process. Barry is definitely passionate about what he does and willing to talk about it. We learned about the distillation “heads”, “hearts” and “tails”, about the importance of copper as well as blending and barrel aging in such a detail that almost no book or tutorial can provide in an engaging manner. Nothing compares with hearing all of these small details from the artisan himself. It was very interesting to find the deviations in the process from one hard liquor to another.
After our production tour was over, we went to taste some of the spirits made here. From whiskies we tried clear un-barreled , dark cask strength (over 150 proof), single cask and a blended variety. We found the cask strength one was surprisingly soft for its alcohol content. We also had a sip of Still Waters vodka - very smooth.
Supporting a small artisan business feels good. It feels even better if this business is actually delivering an exceptional product at a competitive price. We would highly recommend visiting the Still Waters Distillery for a tour and seeking out their products on the LCBO shelves shortly thereafter – you are in for a delightful treat. They will soon have their wonderful whisky line up at the LCBO as well. We will definitely be back to buy some of these outstanding liquors for our friends and family.